Stephen Atta Owusu
The latest addition to the Ghanaian dance form is Azonto. It is gradually gaining international popularity. The dance involves knee-bending, throwing of hands in all directions and rigorous hip movements. It is a delight to watch especially women with big hips and buttocks dancing Azonto.
There are different stories about the origins of Azonto and its subsequent popularity. One story has it that it started somewhere in Bukom, Chorkor and James Town in Accra where it was first called “Apaa” (work for pay). It was a form of dance that represented movement activities like ironing, boxing, driving, washing etc. Another school of thought has it that the term ‘Azonto’ was first used by students of the Senior SecondarySchools to mean life (or the hardships of life – abraabo). Whatever its origins, the term was widely accepted and is today used by everyone to refer to the new dance form.
The dance was made popular by the Ghanaian football star, “Baby-jet” Asamoah Gyan in his goal scoring celebrations for his club and for the Black Stars, especially during the last World Cup in South Africa. It was taken on by revellers who visited the various dance clubs in the cities.
Then came the commercialization of Azonto when Hip-life musicians included Azonto in their music lyrics and video clips. We can find examples in the following songs: The African Girl by Castro; Aboodaatoi by Gasmilla (the Azonto king); Shashee Wowo by Stay Jay; You Go Kill Me by Sarkodie; Yenko Nkoaa (Eduwoji); Wope dodoo (Yaw Siki); Azonto by fuse and many more.
The older generation who are refusing to come to terms with the new reality claim that Azonto dance was given to some musicians by Maame Water when these musicians visited her in the dark. To confirm their claims, they said, that was why the dancers originally covered their faces when dancing Azonto. The reason behind this pure fabrication by the older generation stems from the fact that most girls who appear on the music video clips dance Azonto almost naked. Despite this claim or propaganda, the popularity of the songs and dance continues to grow beyond the borders of Ghana.
In most of their music video, the hip-life artists demonstrate the Azonto dance for all to see and learn. The song Obuu Mo by EL specifically mentions the Azonto Style and features people dancing Azonto in the video. Competitions may soon be organised to select the best Azonto dancer in the country. If you have weak knees and hips, do not dare.
The dance is spreading fast in the USA, U.K and other parts of the world with large populations of Ghanaians. Even Prince Williams is said to have deeply fallen in love with Azonto and he dances it at any opportunity he gets.
Many church leaders in Ghana are having a tough time stopping the youth from dancing Azonto even at church services. It has not been easy to stop them. Older musicians like Okyeame are complaining that the Azonto craze is killing their music. I almost said, if you can’t beat them, join them but I doubt if all hip-life artistes are interested in joining the band-wagon.
The Azonto music and dance have come to stay and it will reign for a long time before a new dance is discovered.